NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby destroyed the squeaky-clean image he built as fun-loving TV dad Dr. Cliff Huxtable when he drugged and molested a young protégé more than 10 years ago, prosecutors charged Monday.
In the trial’s opening statements on the first day of Cosby’s sexual assault trial, prosecutor Kristen Gibbons-Feden portrayed the 79-year-old comedian as a sexual predator who preyed on alleged victim Andrea Constand after she turned to him for advice.
“Celebrities, as a whole, we celebrate them. They become larger than life … we feel that we know them, who they are. And that’s especially true of figures like Bill Cosby, also known as Dr. Huxtable,” said Gibbons-Feden in the media-filled courtroom in Montgomery County. “That man, in that illusion, of all those roles he played on television, that illusion was shattered.”
Cosby kept his eyes glued on the prosecutor as she detailed to jurors how Constand was left “completely paralyzed” after Cosby gave her three blue pills at his home near Philadelphia in January 2004.
“’These three friends will help you relax.’ His words from his voice,” Gibbons-Feden said. “Trust, betrayal and an ability to consent — that’s what this case is about.”
Constand was working as a manager of the basketball team at Temple University when she first met Cosby. She turned to the older “legend” for career advice, Gibbons-Feden said.
“She struck what she believed to be a sincere friendship — a sincere mentorship,” the prosecutor said.
Cosby has maintained the sexual encounter was consensual.
Constand reported the assault to police a year later but prosecutors didn’t file charges because they believed the case was too weak.
In a deposition stemming from Constand’s civil lawsuit that she filed against Cosby, the funnyman said he gave her “Benadryl” that evening — and also admitted to plying other women with the powerful sedative called Quaaludes before having sex with them in the 1970s.
“There are not a lot of facts here in dispute. There is no dispute that he inserted his fingers into her vagina. The issue here is whether or not Andrea Constand had the ability to consent,” Gibbons-Feden said. “And the answer to this question is no.”
She said Constand’s symptoms from 2004 are not only consistent with ingesting Benadryl but also Quaaludes.
Jurors will also hear testimony from another woman, Kelly Johnson, one of dozens of women who’ve accused Cosby of sexual assault in recent years.
Johnson, who is represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, is expected to testify that Cosby molested her in the same exact fashion as Constand in the ’90s.
“She met him at her job. Like Andrea, he offered mentorship advice,” said Gibbons-Feden. “At a certain point, he invited her over to discuss her career. Like Andrea, he gave her a pill. Like Andrea, she became incapacitated. Like Andrea, he grabbed her hand, placed it on his penis and masturbated.”
Meanwhile, in his opening remarks, Cosby’s lawyer Brian McMonagle said that “sexual assault is a terrible crime” but that “a false accusation of sexual assault is also a terrible crime.”
“What do you see? A brilliant comedian? A flawed husband whose infidelity has made him vulnerable to these actions?” McMonagle posed to jurors. “He might be like someone you know, who has achieved greatness yet has suffered an indescribable tragedy. What I hope you’ll see is just a man.”
McMonagle also told the panel that Cosby is blind.
“Unfortunately, when he looks back, he can’t see,” the lawyer said. “I am his eyes in the courtroom.”
The defense lawyer slammed Constand’s version of events, calling her story “inconsistent” and telling jurors that Cosby admitted they were having an affair in a call to her mother.
He said the two had a romantic relationship and that Constand said she wore her hair a “certain way” for Cosby.
The first time Constand met Cosby, she brought him presents, including incense and bath salts.
Then the two had dinner, sipped “cognac and brandy in front of a fire, romantically,” according to McMonagle.
The lawyer said Constand insisted she never contacted Cosby again after the alleged assault but that phone records showed otherwise.
“After the so-called paralyzation and drugging and assault, there were 72 phone calls. She called him 53 times,” McMonagle told jurors. “She called him continuously. They spoke, at times, for 30 or 40 minutes at a pop.”
McMonagle urged jurors to use their common sense when weighing the evidence in the case.
“You will never see Mr. Cosby under oath running from anything,” McMonagle said. “Under oath, he says, ‘I used Quaaludes back three decades ago, when it was fashionable to do so, with consenting women.’”
Cosby has said he will not testify in his own defense.
The 12 jurors will remain anonymous and under sequester during the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.
NY Post, Reuters contributed to this post.